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Evaline Transcendent

The author says:

Genre: Science-Fiction (colonization)

Back blurb: “Evaline is the shipboard computer on the Miranda Two, a colony ship destined for the planet Karman-III-Delta. She is possibly Earth’s last hope of establishing a working off-world colony. However, her predecessor stopped reporting home, so now she and the colonists must establish what happened to the previous colony.”

Nathan says:

What we’re seeing here is the common problem of being too close to the book. You’re the author and you know it inside and out, so the cover seems appropriate to you because it matches an image that you know is in the book.

But look at it from the perspective a potential reader — one who would enjoy reading the book you wrote — and ask, “What does this cover instantly convey about the book?”

Not much. Something science-fictiony, yes, but that’s a big arena.  In the thumbnail, I can see that there’s technology, and a redhead.  I may not even realize that she’s transparent (or I may just assume that she’s part of a semi-transparent collage — what we call “layers upon layers” over at LousyBookCovers.com).

At full size, I really don’t get much more.  I might understand that she’s a hologram in that techno-industrial setting, and I may even get, from her binary morph-suit, that she’s an A.I., but probably before either of those my takeaway will be that she’s a rendered figure from Poser or similar software… and that will probably be a strike against you, because so many indie publishers think that Poser-generated covers are adequate (they’re not) that they also have their own category of “pseudohumans” at LBC.com.

Nowhere do I get “colony ship” or “mysterious lost colony” or anything that would be an honest draw for your target audience.  (And honestly, the title itself doesn’t help; it tells me nothing.) From the summary, I would expect to see a massive colony ship in space, or — and this would definitely get my interest more — humans in shiny space suits looking down on the overgrown ruins of a colony on an alien world.  (In my mind’s eye, the illustration is by Bob Eggleston. For what it’s worth.)

Remember: Your cover is a movie poster.  Your cover is a daring flash of ankle. Your cover, as an esteemed commenter on this site so succinctly put it, is clickbait.  What it needs to say is, “Check out what’s cool over here!” and show something that the target audience for the book would think is cool.

Other comments?

Comments

  1. I’ll depart from Nathan here and say I think the concept is fine. I don’t think a big spaceship would be an improvement; big spaceships are on a lot of generic sci-fi covers.

    But the execution. The typography is fine, but the images are both way too low-res. The background image really looks like a video game still. The figure’s perspective doesn’t match the ground, and the hair is cut and pasted on.

    So I say keep the concept but redo it.

  2. If the woman is kept, I would absolutely, absolutely change the hair for a realistic style that would match the rest of the model. It’s just too cartoony and way too red so it distracts the viewer from everything else. 3d hair made with planes can use a transparency map to create more realistic strands, and a texture of hair (easy to find for free online).

    Whether this image or a similar one is decided upon, or if it gets replaced with something entirely different, I think it needs a more interesting color scheme. Right now, it’s very grey with a touch of blue (hair notwithstanding) – blue is certainly a fine color for the genre but it gets drowned out by all the grey.

    More than anything, what I don’t really like is the composition. Everything is very still, the character is too centered, her face is not expressive, and the text overlays the character just slightly at her head and feet… which gives the impression she’s being squished in between the title and byline.

    Smaller detail that I just want to throw out there… high heel sandals look like the absolute worst choice of shoe to wear while investigating a space colony 😛 Well, honestly her whole outfit doesn’t look very sci-fi to me as well as being a bit plain.

    On the plus side, I like the text. It’s readable, pretty unique, and big enough. I’m not super knowledgeable with fonts so that’s really all I can say lol. I like it, and probably the kerning on the byline should be fixed up.

    Good luck!

  3. I can only second what Nathan said…mainly because it’s something I have mentioned many, many times before: the problem of being objective when designing one’s own cover.

    Aside from the fact that a potential reader would already have to know something about the book in order to derive any meaning from the cover, the art simply does not convey any sense of the book that the blurb is describing.

    There isn’t too much point in going into details regarding her costume or gesture or the choice of type since the image itself needs to be rethought from scratch.

  4. Indeed, both the artwork and the concept need a serious reworking. That the character and settings are rendered is pretty obvious, as one can find graphics of a similar quality–or better–on just about any contemporary gaming console. Unless your story actually concerns people living unaware in a cheaply rendered computer simulation (and from your description, that’s highly unlikely for this book), never use any off-the-shelf rendering program like Poser; that marks you as an amateur right out of the gate.

    Even if you had top-of-the-line technology like the stuff Hollywood uses to make its mindless CGI-fest action movies (and if you could afford that, I don’t know why you’d be here) however, the concept of your artwork isn’t really telling us much about the story within. That the story is probably science fiction, one can tell from the machinery in the background, but not much else; very little from it would be out of place in contemporary settings, including even the Star Wars-style “holographic” gal in the foreground (a technology well within reach right now). Even the fashions she’s wearing wouldn’t look too out-of-place in some contemporary urban locales.

    In short, even leaving aside the tell-tale amateurish rendering, this cover’s about as generic and uninformative a science fiction cover as one can get. It’s the kind of concept a traditional publishing house put on an anthology where the artwork doesn’t have to have anything to do with any of the stories collected therein. You want your readers to see something more specific and immediately engaging, something that tells them this is a story involving artificial intelligence and interstellar travel and planetary colonization.

    For your story, considering that it sounds a bit like a cross between the stories of the old DOS-based video games Albion and Alien Legacy, I’d recommend showing either a cockpit with a view or (depending on what kind of star ships people are using in your future) a bridge with a view screen from which to observe the planet or solar system at which the action in the novel is to take place. While you can still have your holographic Evaline A.I. in the picture if you want, all we would really need to see of her would be her holographic hands at the controls. With those simple elements, every one of your prospective readers would instantly know from the thumbnail that this is a tale of interstellar travel and artificial intelligence (because since when can a hologram be operating a ship’s controls?) and can figure out the rest once they get a closer look at your cover. (How are they to know this is a tale about planetary colonization? Well, some visible construction on the planet seen through the window or view screen could clue them to it, or you could always have a screen on the control board with a readout that says something like “All Colonists Secure: Cryopods 100% Stable” displayed on it.)

    In other words, start with the basics, you know? Have your cover art establish the crucial stuff like the genre and setting first, and then you can fuss with peripheral details like Evaline’s personal appearance and body language and fashion sense.

  5. I agree with pretty much everyone else, although I love the typography MUCH less than Blue or Katz. And man, I just…the first thing I thought, when I saw the cover was that she was wearing a helmet made of some living creature, (Medusa in space…) and then at full-size, I saw it was supposed to be…hair. That’s not hair. That’s a Hair Helmet. And while I recall seeing styles like that, 4 decades ago, that’s not very now or cool or beautylicious, for your Holodroid. (That’s what I’m calling her.) Right?

    Vis: using psuedohumans, versus drawings, and that outfit–I did one fast (and I mean, FAST) search, on Pixabay, and found this: https://pixabay.com/en/fantasy-space-galaxy-alien-contact-2328442/ . To me, that chick would SELL that cover far, far faster than the one you’re using. She’s hot, and she looks like what she is–a holo or droid or AI. Now, that image has already been dl’ed nearly 800 times, so I suspect it’s already on some covers, or will be (it was only posted a month ago). But I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to the designer/artist, and see if he has something similar that you could license.

    Hell, if s/he’s putting that on Pixabay, maybe you could actually commission a piece of art, for your cover that would blow us away. (And, more importantly: the buying public.) (n.b.: Or, this one? https://pixabay.com/en/fantasy-transcendence-composing-2437944/ Or, even this one: https://pixabay.com/en/space-universe-composing-planet-2274565/ ) This guy has it. “It” being the ability to carry the viewer away. That’s rare as hell. Personally, I’d reach out to him and see what he might be willing to do. Or maybe, he’s got some artwork around that he hasn’t posted yet, etc. You never know until you try.

    Anyway…so, the colors are not adequately striking and you don’t have remotely enough contrast, which I suspect someone upstream of me already mentioned. Contrast is not optional, on a book cover. Even if it’s only the titling, do something in that vein.

    Also–and I realize that this is being really picky, but, as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, God is in the Details–the floor, which should be metallic or some other composite material, looks like indoor-outdoor carpeting. Seriously. Get rid of that floor.

    My penultimate comment–the pose. Even if you do find a fabulous creator for your HoloDroid, (I like that made-up word…), the pose could not leave me colder. I started to giggle, thinking “Cigars, Cigarettes, Tiparillos?” You are probably not old enough to remember that commercial, but basically, it implies a waitress or serving wench…not humankind’s ONLY HOPE for a working Earthen colony. I mean, ONLY HOPE? Gimme some action. Gimme some attitude. Gimme SOMETHING that doesn’t look like she’s the hostess, seating me at my table at the local eatery. Please! If the plot hinges on her, she needs to be one hell of a lot more interesting, and more dynamic. Even if we all know that she never gets out and kicks ass, because–she’s the AI–we still need action on the cover. Dynamism. YOWZA factor.

    Fonts: I might consider Resurrection. Or Ethnocentric. I like that you thought outside of the box–I really do. But something is making that titling hard to read. Eurostile Bold Extended is a classic, for sci-fi–but only diehard sci-fi fans would get that you were homaging 2001: A Space Odyssey by using it. (It’s in the movie, extensively, not the title, which was Gill Sans.) Or, maybe just crisping up the title, changing up the coloring a bit, would make it more readable.

    Lastly: The clothing. That outfit, I swear, looks like she bought it in the seconds bin at Walmart. Or Kmart. Or hell, the Factory outlet for some cheap clothing manufacturer. It’s simply godawful. (I’m not going to get into the silliness of why we’d design AIs to have boobs. I’m not. Or hair. Or any of that stuff; arguably, it’s a comfort factor, for the humans.) That outfit has GOTTA GO.

    I realize that because she’s (presumably) not tangible, the heels don’t matter, but even forgetting that, nobody–no woman–in her right mind would wear wedge heels, with that outfit. I know, I know, this isn’t Project Runway, but…please, trust a woman who, long ago and far away, did work in that biz. It’s just a bad, bad combo, visually. And while I know that the stereotypes are boys read sci-fi and girls read romance, it’s just NOT TRUE. I’m as hardcore a sci-fi reader as ever was, and many women are. They’d take one look at that cover and wince–and keep on walking. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

    The plot sounds interesting, but if you can POSSIBLY afford it, try and find a real cover designer, and give him/her the plotline. You might be totally blown away by what s/he comes up with. Don’t feel that you even HAVE to show the AI, as it happens (although you probably ought); there are many other ways to get there from here.

    Good luck. I really do want to see your next iteration!!

    @Nathan (aw, shucks. Esteemed? Gosh.)

  6. I’m going to link to a cover that I have used as an example at least once before: https://cdn.waterstones.com/override/v1/large/9780/1927/9780192742766.jpg

    Because I think this cover is an excellent examples of how it’s not necessarily about the elements you use but how you use them.

    ‘Railhead’ uses the same elements of your cover: title, byline, a female figure and a hi-tech/SF background.

    But ‘Railhead’ is much more successful because of how it uses these to communicate the things about the book which will intrigue browsers: its tone and hook (in the case of ‘Railhead’ most of this intrigue lies in the title which is why it’s been made large and dominant on the cover).

    Like Nathan says, you’ve made a classic author-designing-their-own-cover mistake in wanting to portray the content of your book and ending up with something that tells us neither about the content OR the tone.

    First off, I would question why your character is on the cover. It’s a really interesting idea for the main character to be the artificial intelligence, but you need to think whether the interest that’s there in the book is something that can be expressed visually. It’s certainly not coming across at the moment. On the whole I think you’ll have more luck featuring the broader hook/setting of your story – the idea of the lost colony (like Nathan advises).

    But you might be able to find some kind of imagery that does a better job of conveying the ‘artificial intelligence character’ hook. For example, something along these lines gets closer to expressing the idea in pictoral form:

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/double-exposure-image-virtual-human-3dillustration-572176240?src=urRIWMQrhzqTyj64L-Ldqg-2-84

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/next-generation-ai-series-interplay-fusion-232366699

    The other thing with your figure is that she’s not intriguing. She’s just standing there, centrally, large, in a dull pose. In the ‘Railhead’ example the designer also included a female figure (and in the book we find out this person is a robot) but made the element intiguing by making her small, distinctively clothed and facing away from the camera. Browsers are drawn in when things are mysterious and suggestive.

    It’s not a bad title treatment you’ve got going on (though the kerning between the E and V of Evaline needs to be tightened). But I think between the wide font and the long-ish words of the title, you end up with a title treatment that is rather small on the page. I’ll look into some taler fonts so at least the word ‘Evaline’ can be made to dominate the cover more.

    On that note I’ll wrap up with this: designers talk about the ‘visual hierarchy’ of a layout (be it cover. poster etc). It refers to how you arrange and size objects to draw a viwer’s attention where you want it, and to make the whole thing ‘pop’. In the ‘Railhead’ cover, for example, there is one very dominant graphic element: the title. It is the biggest thing on the page, it is the brightest in tone. The next thing we look at is the girl. She is small, but in a bright and contrasting colour, and intrigues us by being an ambiguous figure (see above). The SF/space/technology background is much subtler, something that informs viewers brain as to tone and genre whilke they are paying attention to these bold graphic elements.

    Ont he curent cover everything is too balanced with equal weight. Your figure and her backgound and the title. One of these graphic elements needs to dominate – whichever one packs the most punch in communicating the appeal of your book.

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